San Antonio Focuses on Annexation Strategy

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Section of City of San Antonio Annexations by decade map.

Section of City of San Antonio Annexations by decade map.

The City of San Antonio will move from the nation’s seventh largest city to the fifth largest with a population of 1.7 to 1.8 million by 2020, according to John Dugan, the City’s planning director, if City Council adopts the staff’s recommended annexation strategy.

Dugan told City Council in a Wednesday briefing that staff is recommending the annexation by December 2015 of five “priority areas” along five key freeways and highways that total 66 square miles and are currently home to 140,000 people. Annexing these five fast-growing areas, Dugan said, would add 200,000 new residents to the city’s population by 2020.

“Basically, we are looking at strategies to promote economic growth … and avoid infiltration of competing cities,” Dugan said.

Annexation 360 priority areas

San Antonio passed Dallas and San Diego in the 2010 census, moving from the ninth to the seventh largest city. If Dugan’s projections hold, the city would pass Phoenix and Philadelphia by 2020, and rank only behind New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston on the list of Top 10 U.S. Cities.

Bexar County’s population will continue to grow, too, of course. Even so, San Antonio’s rank as a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) will be far behind Dallas, the country’s fourth largest MSA, and Houston, the fifth largest. San Antonio currently is the 25th-largest MSA and will remain outside the Top 20 MSAs in the 2020 U.S. Census under current growth projections.

Annexation, however, isn’t about the city’s national rank on listings as much as it is capturing areas of population growth and economic development in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. With only limited control of such areas now, annexation would allow San Antonio to fill in the missing pieces of a larger jigsaw puzzle, and align city services and tax collections, and in some cases, prevent neighboring cities from capturing that growth.

Dugan said none of the five priority areas could be targeted by nearby cities, but a failure to annex would probably lead to the creation of a new incorporated city around the Alamo Ranch area north of Texas 151 and Loop 1604.

When the City began studying annexation for the first time in more than a decade under then-Mayor Julián Castro, City staff identified 30 study areas within a five-mile radius of the city limits. Dugan told Council that the list has been reduced to five priority areas, along I-1o West, east of Boerne; along 281 North, south of Bulverde; on I-10 East; along Hwy. 151 to the northwest; and to the southwest around the intersection of Hwy. 90 and Loop 1604.

The annexation decision will be made by Council in December. If approved, the process of public hearings, fiscal analysis, zoning studies, and other proceedings would lead to an official annexation in December 2015. The City would then have three years to extend all services to the newly annexed areas.

Annexation 360 timeline and next steps

State law limits cities to annual annexations of 10% or less of their geographic size. San Antonio currently measures just under 480 square miles, Dugan said, so the annexation of 66 square miles would occur over a two-year time period.

Mayor Ivy Taylor asked Dugan how the staff’s annexation proposal squares with the comprehensive planning initiative she launched two months ago. Would they conflict or complement one another? Dugan said annexation is comprehensive short-term planning, while Taylor’s initiative explores how to plan for the next 25 years.

District 9 Councilmember Joe Krier asked what would happen if the City does nothing. Dugan said Bexar County’s unincorporated population, which now stands at 300,000, would grow to 500,000 and people would demand service that the City could not afford to deliver without an expanded tax base. The City would realize a net gain of $70 million a year in property and sales tax revenues with the proposed annexation, Dugan said, after accounting for annexation and service expansion costs.

“We probably would face the potential incorporation of a new town around Alamo Ranch area, and we’d have less control over development around the freeways, which are the gateways to the city,” Dugan added.

“On the flip side,” Krier noted, the City would not face the expense of expanding police and fire protection to the areas, or adding parks, libraries and other core services.

*Featured/top image: Section of City of San Antonio annexations by decade map.

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8 thoughts on “San Antonio Focuses on Annexation Strategy

  1. Adding the rich parts of town while keeping the poorer areas free from city services for years isn’t my idea of serving the tax base. Von Ormy is one of the areas and they did something about it. SA had the money but no effort was made. Why?

    Annexation doesn’t seem to help and only seems to make things worse. What does annexation accomplish?

  2. What efforts, if any, have been made to ask the residents of the target areas whether they favor annexation? What is their opinion? Can you share that with us Bob? Thanks!

    • They usually put little signs up that are barely noticeable and people are supposed to watch out for them and watch the news (a lot of people hate watching the news) or read the newspaper (people rarely have a subscription nowadays) for notices about annexation. If people don’t fight (because they’re busy working, haven’t heard about it or are out of town) then the city annexes that part of town.

      I’m sorry but this isn’t enough. COSA needs to stop!

  3. The Sandy Oaks debacle should say something about how this city’s annexation plan is working. COSA was more than happy to let go of the area inside Waterwood, largely mobile homes and low quality houses. However, they wouldn’t budge on letting go of any of the surrounding areas, which just happen to be in prime position for capitalizing on the Eagleford Shale Boom.

  4. Would annexation include services from SAFD and SAPD or will the current fire and police departments currently serving the areas in question continue to serve?

  5. What about Homeowner Associations? Will they able to continue? Must have forfeiture homes who did not pay their HOA dues and forced to give up their homes. What happens to this homes? Some people are behind on their HOA dues and paying high % to pay the lawyers off. What will happen then. I hope the HOA go away. They ripe the neighborhoods off with the management companies charging to ” Keep the HOA safe”. Yeah Right! The Board of Directors take advantage of the neighbors and impose restrictions as they see fit. Neighbors fight with one another over legalities the BOD do not want to adhere to. Please address this.

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